There are serious discussions underway in the legal education community about whether the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), which is now a mandatory requirement for admission to law school, will become a voluntary requirement. An American Bar Association (ABA) committee is considering proposing changes to the ABA's current law school accreditation standards that would allow law schools to make the LSAT optional.
This potential change is a long way from happening, since the committee has to make its final report, and then the full Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar would have to make any final decision on an accreditation rule change. The earliest time such a decision could be made by the ABA would be in 2012 or even later. So, it could be a few years away before law schools potentially change their admissions policies for incoming students.
U.S. News is watching closely whether, when, and how the LSAT requirement is changed since law school admissions data counts for 25 percent of our annual Best Law Schools rankings. The combined median LSAT of all full-time and part-time students entering into a J.D. program is one of the key components of our rankings. The U.S. News law school rankings methodology weights the LSAT at 12.5 percent of the overall ranking. In addition, the median undergraduate grade-point average of all entering J.D. students is weighted 10 percent of the overall ranking, and the overall acceptance rate counts for 2.5 percent. We believe that comparing law schools on their students' LSATs and undergraduate GPAs is the most direct way of determining which schools have enrolled the "best and brightest" students—and therefore will remain important criteria in determining which are the nation's top law schools.
One key question is what law schools will do it if they are given the right to make the LSAT optional. Would the behavior of law schools mirror recent trends in undergraduate admissions that have seen a growing number of colleges make submitting the SAT and ACT optional for prospective students? The colleges that have made these tests optional say that they see an increase in the number of applicants from a more socioeconomic diverse group of students, without sacrificing academic quality and performance. However, generally speaking, the top-ranked schools in the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings have not gone test-optional for undergraduate admissions. The highest ranked schools still believe that the SAT and ACT tests are measuring something important. Interestingly, even for the test-optional schools, a majority of their students still tend to submit either the SAT or ACT test for consideration.
It's likely that a very large proportion of law students will continue to take and submit the LSAT, even if it's made optional at some schools. It is important to note that the LSAT has been proven to be the best and most reliable predictor of first year success at law school. With that in mind, U.S. News will continue to conduct the annual law school rankings, and the LSAT will remain a heavily weighted factor.
Check out coverage of this optional LSAT issue:
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